Gothic Revivalby Michael J. Lewis
"The Gothic Revival," writes Michael Lewis, "is more than a fashion craze for pointed arches and pinnacles. During its years of greatest influence, it subjected every aspect of art, belief, society, and labor to intense intellectual scrutiny, using the Middle Ages as a platform from which to judge the modern world." It is the unique merit of Professor Lewis's study of this nineteenth-century movement that it gives as much attention to ideas as to aesthetics. In England the Gothic Revival's roots lay in romantic literature, but with Pugin, Ruskin, and Morris it assumed a deeply moral character as well. In France and Germany the emphasis changed, taking on political and nationalistic overtones. Such buildings as the Houses of Parliament in London and the rebuilt cathedral of Cologne were as much statements of principle as works of architectural imagination. Viollet-le-Duc saw Gothic as an expression of French rationalism. Ludwig II made it into an evocation of the heroic Germanic past. In America it stood for a history that America had never known: the traditions of Oxford and Cambridge were re-created at Princeton and Yale. Professor Lewis forcefully refutes the still-prevalent idea that neo-Gothic was a world of costume-drama and make-believe, giving full weight to the sense of mission that motivated men such as Jean-Baptiste Lassus, Friedrich Schmidt, William Butterfield, George Edmund Street, James Renwick, and Richard Upjohn. By the early twentieth century the Gothic Revival had outlived its ideals. Overtaken by Modernism, it became an object of ridicule and contempt. Since the Second World War this climate of opinion has changed, and we are ready to understand, appreciate,and learn from it. Professor Lewis's book is the most comprehensive, authoritative, and sensitive contribution to the revival of the Revival. 176 illustrations, 40 in color.
Author Biography: Michael J. Lewis teaches art history at Williams College. He is the author of Frank Furness: Architecture and the Violent Mind.
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